I had some high personal expectations going into the 2015 Cynosport World Games. After 2 straight years of attending the European Open as well as further refinement of my handling as well as more experience overall I thought we could do really well at this event. So, with that, I had some goals that I wanted to reach. Goal #1 was to make at least 1 final. Goal #2 was to place in at least one final. Goal #3 was to make the IFCS “win on” spot for the 26″ class. Goal #4 was to relax and enjoy the experience. I’m happy to say that I was able to reach 3 out of 4 of my goals!
Goals 1, 2, and 3 go hand in hand so I’ll talk about them together. At this year’s Cynosport I did not have a semifinal bye for Grand Prix. Because Grand Prix semi-finals and finals counted towards the IFCS “win on” spot I really needed to do well in this event. I knew going in that the judge who designs the Grand Prix quarterfinals course makes them ugly and difficult. This year’s course did not disappoint in that department. I posted on Facebook that I thought this year’s course was the ugliest GP course I had ever seen. It was very compact with some bad angles (dogs were bouncing off the side of the chute barrel because of the angle), but dog walk entrance and exit were right in our wheelhouse for doability. So with the ugliness firmly implanted in my brain we went out and ran it as well as we could. Unfortunately, the last obstacle was the tire and Luna just barely brushed it causing it to open just a few inches. We ran it very fast (4th fastest in 26″) which I was extremely happy with. However, because of the fault we would not be advancing and, with that, our chance to get the “win on” spot for IFCS pretty much disappeared.
The next event I was looking to make the finals for was Steeplechase. For this year’s event, I did have a semi-final bye for Steeplechase. Normally Steeplechase isn’t our best event because it’s a fast ground speed event without the equalizer of a running dog walk. Since we aren’t the fastest ground speed team out there, it would be tough to advance to finals since only a limited amount of teams advance. This course was very nice and we were doing 2 A-Frames which would help our time. Unfortunately, Luna knocked the next to last bar which means we would not be advancing to Steeplechase finals. However, once again, she did put up a very respectable time. When I came off the course and checked my time I thought even if we had run clean we wouldn’t have advanced as 3 other dogs in my group beat my time and we were the first group to go. So I assumed with 6 or 7 more groups to go that a lot more dogs would be faster. However, when I checked at the end of the day our time would have put us around 8th which would have been fast enough to advance. So, even without advancing I was quite happy with that result.
The 3rd and final event that allowed you to run in finals was the overall team event. Going into this event I wanted to have a competitive team so with that in mind I looked for competitive dogs. Immediately I asked a Chicago agility friend, Tawni, with her fabulous 22″ BC Jolt to be on a team. However, a 3rd teammate was escaping us. So at EO this year I was asking all of the big dog people if they were looking for a team. Thankfully, Jody Lolich said that she had a friend/student, Maria, who needed a team. And for the cherry on top, Maria happened to have won the 2015 AKC NAC for the 24″ class with her BC Gromit! With the team finalized, I felt we had a good chance to at least make the finals. Day 1 had team standard and snooker. It was not a good day for Luna and I. We only got 17 points in snooker because I took my eye off of her for a second to check my positioning and didn’t see her slide past the first 2 poles on our last 7 point attempt. Because I thought she had done it properly I went to the closing which means we got whistled off the course. Then in team standard, we accumulated 15 points of faults due to a teeter call (which I did not agree with) along with both the up and down of the dog walk called. Thankfully, my teammates both came through and ran fast, clean standard runs as well as both of them running a 47 point snooker course. Despite my poor performance, after 2 events were sitting in 27th place! The top 30 teams advance to team finals so we were actually sitting in a good position. The next event we were scheduled to do was gamblers. It was our only run on Friday. I believed that all 3 of us had a solid plan since were all doing virtually the same thing. All we needed to do was execute. Thankfully, we all executed the plan almost perfectly. I was the only one to have issues. Luna knocked a bar in the opening and then also missed her 2nd teeter as I forgot to tell her to touch. Because of that, we left 8 points out on the course, but still ended up with a very respectable 48 points. My teammates each accumulated 53 points! At the end of the day, we had now moved up to 9th place for team after 3 events! On day 4, team jumpers was up! It was a fairly straight forward course with only 2 spots that were of concern for an E. Our only goal for team jumpers was for nobody to E. No E’s meant we would be moving to finals. Jolt and Luna both ran fast, clean courses. Gromit had 15 points of faults, but more importantly no E’s! Finals here we come. After 4 events, I believe we had moved up to around 5th or 6th.
Team relay finals was later in the afternoon on Saturday. We knew we had to run fast and clean in relay to have any chance on moving up to snag a podium spot. The same height dog side had a fast opening with a straight tunnel in the middle of a mad sprint to the top corner of the course. I decided that Maria would be running first since she would be able to lead out in order to beat Gromit to the end of the tunnel. I would go last since I felt that with a running start and my ground speed I would be able to beat Luna to the end of the tunnel. Tawni and Jolt actually had the tough part of the course. Not only was she running 2nd with a backside jump at #2, but she also had a threadle later on in her course. We all went out there and did exactly what we had planned on doing. We were all clean and fast. At the end of the event, we actually won the team relay event with a time of 55.98! And to put the cherry on top of our sundae, we ended up in 2nd place for overall team. So, in the span of 15 minutes, my team was able to get on the podium twice to accept our awards for placements! Goal #1 and goal #2 were met!
I was so happy with my teammates. Even though I wanted to be competitive in team and try to win and/or get a podium spot, I’m not one of those teammates who expects clean runs and high points totals every time. My philosophy is that I would rather fail going for it than succeed playing it safe. If my teammates went for it every run and E’d every course or racked up no points in gamblers or snooker I would have been perfectly happy with that result. You cannot get better at this sport by always playing it safe. If nothing is pushing you then you never have a need to get better. Thankfully, we were all of the same mindset and despite going for it each time nobody E’d. I don’t know if all 3 of us can do the 2016 Cynosports, but I know if we can I would love to team with them again to see if we can improve upon our 2nd place finish.
And finally, goal #4 this year was to actually have fun and be more relaxed. 2 years ago when I attended Cynosports at the same venue I didn’t really know anybody except for the local Chicago people who attended. On top of that, it was my first big event and I had some probably unrealistic expectations about our performance. This year, though, I knew a lot more people there due to our experiences the last 2 years and didn’t feel like I never had anybody to chat with or say hi to while walking around the venue. Plus, I tried to help out as much as possible at the IFCS fundraising booth which afforded me the opportunity to get to know even more people who desire to compete at the top levels of agility. On top of all of that, I never had that feeling of nervousness that I have experienced in the past when I step to the line. It was just another course to run with no parts of that I felt we couldn’t do. So, this event was probably the most fun I’ve had at such a big event. Hopefully, I’ll keep building upon this and each successive big event will be that much more fun.